THE failure of the land reform process and commercial agriculture to unite for a common purpose in South Africa has created immense difficulties in the sector, according to Shadrack Moephuli, the president and chief executive of the Agricultural Research Council.
Speaking at Launch of the ASSAF Consensus Study on Revitalising Agricultural education and training in South Africa last week, Moephuli said there was still an inherent problem of commercial agriculture enterprises cannibalising each other into fewer, but larger, consolidated and complex businesses that increased unemployment.
In addition, the sector also had to grapple with the inability of land reform farms realizing the ability to become viable enterprises to sustain growth of the sector.
“South Africa’s agriculture system remains largely a reflection of the apartheid system, unable to create additional jobs and incomes. The consequence has been an agricultural system, largely commercial, that fails to integrate itself into a coherent agricultural education and training ecosystem,” he said.
Commercial agriculture, has an obligation to ensure effective collaboration with the university and research institutions to create a robust agricultural innovation system, said Moephuli.
“It’s now more than 20 years since the dawn of democracy, therefore, any efforts at delaying implementation of systems that create an integrated agricultural innovation system could be detrimental to our aspirations as a society. We therefore hope all the recommendations of the consensus study will serve to provide meaningful and transformative ideas towards ensuring a sustainable and successful Agricultural Education and Training system,” he said.
The ARC appreciates the work of the ASSAF Consensus Study Panel on Agricultural Education and Training in South Africa.
“As an organization, we will study the report, make recommendations to the ARC Council (board) and engage with all relevant stakeholders that need to take necessary action,” he added.
There is a need to re –examine the institutional arrangements, including the possibility of rationalizing or creating new focused/specialized institutions, as well as review of the agricultural education curricula to make it relevant to the communities being served and to enable agricultural innovation. Furthermore the sector needs to be robust in institutionalizing experiential learning opportunities outside the classroom as a critical element of development in partnership with a range of stakeholders (smallholder and large-scale commercial farming enterprises as well as the agri –food value chain). Moephuli also reiterated that there must be a targeted focus on increased investments in both teaching and research, particularly for university and research institute faculty members; and, Facilitating partnerships among various institutions to develop joint programmes, create synergy, sharing of resources, and exchange of students and faculty along with agriculture sector partners.
“In this regard, we believe it’s appropriate that government departments, particularly: DHET, DAFF, and, DST are represented at this launch. We therefore hope their presence signifies the initial stages of exploring how to consider issues pertaining agricultural education and training as a coherent government system and not individual departments. The ARC plans therefore to engage with the various government departments on this matter to bring particular focus and attention towards transforming our system of Agricultural Education and Training,” said Moephuli.